“And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.
And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered. For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.” (Numbers 27:12-14)
For forty years Moses had led the nation of Israel. Now God told Moses to go to mount Abarim and look out over the land God had given them. Forty years before, when the spies went into the land, it had already been given to them. Like a person who has won a prize and been given a certificate for it they still needed to pick it up, but it was already theirs. In the same way, our salvation and heavenly citizenship are already ours, although we haven’t yet picked them up.
Moses’ sin in letting his frustration cause him to take the credit for bringing water from the rock at Meribah years before prevent being able to enter the land, despite all the years he had faithfully led them. Like Aaron, he would die just before they went into the land.
“And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying, Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:15-17)
Moses had lived with the knowledge that he would not be allowed to go into the land vor several years, and had accepted it. His greatest concern was what would happen to the people when he was no longer leading them. He was not egotistical in thinking only he could lead them, but he was concerned that they have a proper leader,.
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” (Numbers 27:18-21)
For forty years, Joshua had been involved in helping Moses. He led the army when the Amalekites attacked then just a month after they left Egypt in Exodus 17. He had been Moses’ minister and accompanied him for part of the giving of the Law in Exodus 24, accompanying Moses when he found the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. He had observed Moses’ concern that God not destroy the whole people and start over. He had been there repeatedly when Moses spoke to God, and had developed a similar relationship with God as Exodus 33:11 tells us. “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.”
In Numbers 11, Joshua had been concerned about Eldad and Medad prophesying in a different way than the others and seen Moses handling of the situation. He had been the one who stood with Caleb when the other spies insisted they couldn’t conquer the land. Forty years later, he was still faithfully serving as Moses’ assistant. While Moses had had forty years practice herding sheep, Joshua had had forty years practice learning to lead the nation of Israel. He is the one God has chosen to take Moses’ place, but he has earned the respect of the people and the change of leadership would have minimal impact.
“And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.” (Numbers 27:22-23)